Jerusalem, Nov 1 (EFE).- Polling stations opened in Israel on Tuesday morning for the fifth election in about four years in a close contest that pre-election polls suggested would result in yet another hung parliament.
Some 6.78 million eligible voters can use their ballot in about 12,000 polling stations under heavy security to choose between their representatives for the 120-member Knesset.
The voting that excludes Israelis residing abroad will close at 10 pm.
Incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the controversial opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu wooed voters until late Monday.
“I am addressing the voters who have not voted for me in the past. I ask for the opportunity to work with you. You deserve the most basic: a government of honest and hardworking people,” Lapid said, wrapping up his campaign.
Netanyahu, eyeing a comeback, warned his voters of eventual defeat if they did not go to the polls “to replace Lapid.”
“The future of Israel is at stake. What kind of government will we have — that of Lapid and the Muslim Brotherhood. We’ll have to break the tie and win,” Netanyahu said, referring to Raam party leader Mansour Abbas and his Islamist roots,
Lapid took over as caretaker prime minister on July 1 and is committed to staying in office thanks to the experience accumulated in the last four months and an alliance with several ideologically different parties.
However, the coalition members have one point in common: to prevent the return of Netanyahu, the longest-serving head of government in Israel and with three open cases for corruption.
Although Lapid’s popularity has soared, surveys show that his moderate Yesh Atid party may get just 24-27 seats, with the anti-Netanyahu group behind him adding 56.
Even if he gains the backing of the Hadash-Taal alliance of Arab parties, which has so far refused to partner with him, Lapid’s bloc will be limited to 60 seats, short of a legislative majority.
According to surveys, the right-wing and religious alliance that backs Netanyahu is also likely to get 60 seats, with his party, Likud, pocketing about 30.
After counting votes, the ballot papers will be taken to the Knesset for the official results to be registered before the Central Election Committee.
Although definitive results are expected only at the end of the week, it might take months to form a new government. EFE